By LOUIS LANG
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s latest visit to China has revealed more about the measures the Government of Canada is willing to take to put the entire human and material assets of the government and country at the disposal of the drive of the most powerful North American monopolies to be number one on the world market. Press releases from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) claim that this trip resulted in more than $2.5 billion in “deals.” It is alleged these “deals” will create thousands of jobs and be good for the economy in Canada. In reality, this trip clearly shows how, since Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s “Team Canada” trips in the early nineties, Canada’s international affairs and diplomacy have increasingly been turned over to private interests. Today, under Stephen Harper, trade and so-called economic diplomacy are the main focus of foreign policy. In this way Harper has systematically turned over all the diplomatic and foreign services assets of the Canadian government to support the quest of certain monopolies to maximize their profits around the world. In the name of “jobs” and “economic diplomacy,” a society said to serve the public interest no longer exists. The most narrow private interests have occupied the place which the public authority used to occupy. The competition between these interests is causing havoc, exacerbating all the crises which are affecting the people.
The four-day visit to China took place from November 4 to 6. The delegation included several cabinet ministers; John Baird, Foreign Affairs; James Moore, Industry; Ed Fast, International Trade; Gerry Ritz, Agriculture; and Alice Wong, Minister of State for Seniors. Canadian business representatives from many sectors of the economy were also part of the delegation, including Canadian pork, beef and grain producers, officials from financial service companies as well as representatives of engineering, mining, oil and gas firms.
Media reports emphasized that China is now Canada’s second largest trading partner and currently Canada has a trade deficit with China of $31 billion which needed to be addressed. Regarding the issue of the need for further Chinese investment in Canada, John Manley, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives said that the Chinese will be looking to Harper to clarify Canada’s positions on investment. He said, “And I hope he does, because we’re always going to need capital in Canada in order to develop our natural resources, and this is a big source of international capital, so we have to be somewhat open to China as a source of developing Asian supply chains.”
Some of the more important agreements signed in China include:
- Canada and China signed a reciprocal currency deal to facilitate trade between the two countries. A new Chinese currency hub will be established in Canada to enable easier trade between the Canadian dollar and the Chinese yuan also known as the renminbi. This eliminates the need for Canadian exporters to use U.S. currency to do business in China and reduces currency exchange costs.
- Quebec-based Bombardier signed a contract worth more than $1 billion with China Express Airlines for the purchase of 16 aircraft with an option for eight more.
- Air Canada signed a memorandum of understanding “to form a joint venture with Air China that should, over several years and based on the size and growth of the Canada-China market, generate in excess of $500 million in incremental annual revenue to the joint venture partners at full maturity when network growth is realized and incremental frequencies and aircraft are added by both carriers.”
- The Memorandum of Understanding on Nuclear Co-operation was expanded to help the Canadian nuclear industry increase its exports to China and allegedly generate jobs and growth in Canada’s nuclear energy sector.
- Based on this Memorandum of Understanding Candu Energy Inc. of Ontario signed a framework agreement to create a joint company with China National Nuclear Corporation to develop the Advanced Fuel CANDU reactor and deliver CANDU New Build projects in China and international markets.
- Agreements were also made opening markets in China for cherries from British Columbia and blueberries from Quebec.
The Candu energy agreement
These agreements with China clearly show that the agenda of the Harper government is to use state resources to make the monopolies competitive in global markets, the public interest and the well-being of Canada’s economy be damned. The Harper government’s naked promotion of private interests above the public interest is an abdication of the duties of public office and outright corruption. A modern enlightened society would not allow its foreign civil service to be put at the disposal of the narrow interests of North American monopolies and the destruction of public assets would be included in the criminal code as a social crime.
A close examination of the agreement giving Candu Energy Inc. an opportunity to participate in the building of nuclear reactors in China, is merited. For one, it exposes the role of the Harper government in betraying the public interest and the welfare of Canadians in favour of the most powerful monopoly corporations. But it is also a flagrant example of the failure of the monopoly controlled media to hold the government to account for its hypocrisy and to fully report on the significance of this agreement.
The joint venture between Candu Energy Inc. and the China National Nuclear Corporation is a significant long term agreement which includes the development and export of advanced fuel reactors. This is an unprecedented opportunity for SNC-Lavalin, which established Candu Energy Inc. as its wholly owned subsidiary in 2011 when Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) was sold to SNC-Lavalin by the Harper government for $15 million. Amongst other things, the sale included the technology and knowledge behind the Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR), which can use spent fuel from four different types of light reactors, creating a large potential market in China and many other countries for SNC Lavalin’s company.
China presently operates 22 nuclear power reactors, including two CANDU 6 reactors in Qinshan, which were sold to China in the late ’90s by AECL and have been in commercial operation since then. China has 26 reactors under construction and others have been proposed. They expect to have a network of some 300 nuclear plants in service by 2040.
Clearly this contract guarantees super profits for Candu at least for the next twenty years. Candu CEO Preston Swafford said in an interview, “The ability to complement roughly four light water reactors with one Candu reactor assures really strong nuclear engineering, highly skilled jobs back here in Canada, but also some key manufacturing opportunities in Canada as well.”
At a potential cost of $5.5 billion to $7 billion each, the Chinese reactors would generate substantial revenues for Candu. The first reactor wouldn’t likely be in service for eight to 10 years, but would require years of initial design and development.
Testing in China and Canada has confirmed the Candu reactors will burn both spent uranium and thorium, a more widely abundant radioactive element. Candu executives are ecstatic about the new technology acquired from AECL which is in such great demand and establishes Candu in the forefront for the worldwide nuclear energy industry.
None of the reports about the significance of this enormous contract with windfall profits and other long term benefits for SNC-Lavalin and Candu Energy mention the fact that this constitutes a betrayal of public interest and the development of nuclear technology under public authority for the benefit of all Canadians by the Harper conservatives. The privatization of AECL was a premeditated act with Harper and his ministers repeatedly lying to Canadians to justify handing over one of Canada’s most important Crown Corporations to SNC-Lavalin. Canadians were told that the government should “get out of the business of subsidizing nuclear reactor sales,” and that AECL was a financial risk for “the Canadian taxpayer.”
In completing the sale of AECL in June 2011, the Harper government also had the gall to pay SNC-Lavalin $75 million (five times the amount of what it paid for AECL) to complete the development of the new Enhanced CANDU 6 reactor which is essential for this latest multi-billion dollar deal with China.
As pointed out in the article “The Privatization of Atomic Energy of Canada- Harper’s Gift to SNC-Lavalin!” in TML Daily, January 24, 2014, within months of the sale of AECL, Candu Energy was able to acquire more than $1 billion in contracts in Ontario and Argentina. Since then many other multi-billion dollar contracts were signed to refurbish old reactors and build new ones.
The actions of the Harper government resulted in a massive transfer of important public assets, technology, research, knowledge and development of secure nuclear energy out of the public domain into the private sector. If AECL still existed as a Crown corporation, this agreement with China could have resulted in its consolidation at all levels, with all its resources under public authority with the potential of serving the interest of all Canadians not just in the safe development of nuclear energy, but also to guarantee a plentiful supply of medical isotopes at reasonable cost to the health care system.
These agreements with China clearly show that the agenda of the section of the international financial oligarchy which has taken over the Canadian state in the name of free markets, democracy and human rights is thriving at the expense of the people. The Harper government’s deployment of state resources to make the monopolies competitive in global markets is, without a shadow of a doubt, at the expense of the public interest and the well-being of Canada’s economy and people. The Harper government’s corruption is beyond the pale in cases such as this, which will give away Atomic Energy of Canada for private gain. A modern enlightened society would not allow its foreign civil service to be put at the disposal of the narrow interests of North American monopolies, and the destruction of public assets would be included in the criminal code as a social crime.
(With files from PMO. Photos: TML, PIPSC)
Source: TML Weekly Information Project, November 29, 2014 – No. 43